Showing posts with label Piano. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Piano. Show all posts

Tuesday, December 17, 2019

Christmas Redux

Over the years I’ve posted these YouTube piano “performances” of my favorite Christmas songs.  I present them here in one place and by clicking onto the title, one can read my original reason for recording each.  Interspersed are some photographs of Christmas here in Florida.  It’s certainly not the same as our Connecticut years but it is the same spirit.

The first is by none other than Bill Evans and it’s the most viewed of my selections. 

 Luminaries light the way on our road throughout Christmas Eve.

Here is one of my very favorites, by Vince Guaraldi, something this great jazz pianist wrote for A Charlie Brown Christmas special in 1965.

 Many homes are decorated along the Intracoastal Waterway

This is an unusual one in that it was written by none other than Peggy Lee.  It’s rarely performed yet beautiful

The Palm Beach Boat Parade organizes in front of Old Port Cove and is preceded by fireworks all along the parade route up to Jupiter.

And the last is one of the iconic Christmas songs we hear again and again, but as I’m away from “home” – NYC where I was born and will always identify with -- it has a special meaning to me.

May your holidays be happy and healthy!

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Sondheim Side by Side with Cecil and Mays

My favorite bass player, David Einhorn, knowing my love of Sondheim, gifted me Our Time, Tommy Cecil and Bill Mays’ incredible jazz interpretation of Sondheim’s work.  As it is indicated as “Volume 2” I was able to find their first CD of Sondheim’s music, appropriately called Side by Side.  I don’t think I’ve ever written a “plug” for anything in this space, but I make an exception for these two CDs. (Amazon carries both.)

Tommy Cecil and Bill Mays

They take the beautiful and frequently complex music of Sondheim to another level (although some of the pieces Sondheim was only the lyricist), probably the most unique jazz pieces I’ve ever heard.  It is an equal partnership between a gifted bassist and pianist.  We’ve seen Bill Mays at the Colony on Palm Beach, intended to go back this year, but learned that the Colony had cancelled his brunch gigs on Sunday, probably due to financial considerations.  He is perhaps one of the best jazz pianists at work today.

No drummer is necessary for this pair. In fact a drummer would interfere with their accomplishment, a unique collaboration of two gifted musicians, their voicing and rhythm just perfect.

Before these two CDs I had collected a series of Sondheim jazz albums by the Terry Trotter Trio, the only such authorized renditions by the great man himself, Stephen Sondheim.  I listen to them frequently but now I’m fixated on the innovative work of Cecil and Mays. Here are the tracks from the two CDs:

Side By Side (Sondheim Duos)

1 Something's Coming 7:09
2 Not While I'm Around 6:25
3 Broadway Baby 8:00
4 Every Day a Little Death 6:10
5 Ballad of Sweeney Todd 4:50
6 Small World 6:52
7 Side By Side By Side 5:27
8 Anyone Can Whistle 6:28
9 Comedy Tonight 7:06

Our Time (Sondheim Duos 2)

1 Everybody Says Don't  5:33
2 Johanna 3:44
3 Our Time5:59  
4 Moments in the Woods 6:09
5 Finishing the Hat 4:48
6 The Miller's Son 5:55  
7 Losing My Mind 4:19
8 The Best Thing That Has Ever Happened 5:44
9 Agony 6:05
10 Being Alive 5:44
11 Rich and Happy 6:08

Saturday, April 25, 2015

He Had That Certain Feeling

Apparently I’ve reached the point in this blog where I am beginning to circle back on myself.  Earlier this week I gave a Gershwin concert at the Brookdale Senior Living Center of Palm Beach Gardens.  I thought I would write about it and record one of the many pieces I played there.  

So I started to think about what I would say about this special experience--special as it was an all Gershwin program, probably the composer I most admire for his versatility and genius.  He wrote some of the greatest songs for the American Songbook, as well as concert and operatic works (we are seeing American in Paris this summer on Broadway; can’t wait!).  He singlehandedly removed the barrier between jazz and classical music.

Also, of all the composers I play on the piano, my so-called style is most suitable for his works.  I wanted to write about my joy of Gershwin, and as I began I had the nagging feeling that I’ve said all of this before.  Searching my blog I found pretty much what I wanted to say from six years ago! There are some links to some pieces I “home recorded.”  “Google Pages” use to host audios, but no longer does; however, old recordings are grandfathered such as this one of selections from Porgy and Bess.

I had written that entry after attending a live performance of Earl Wild’s arrangement, Fantasy on Porgy and Bess.  But as the former entry tells most of my Gershwin story, I’ll let it speak for itself.  Preparing for this recent concert, I recorded The Man I Love, with the limitations of the USB-size Sony Digital Voice Recorder I use at home, which I can share using Dropbox.  It is best listened to at low volume as the recording device renders it “tinny.”

Via Dropbox I can also share a couple of Gershwin pieces I recorded more than six years ago at a studio, the quality of the recordings better but I can now play these pieces a little more professionally, thanks to some lessons I took a few years ago, Someone To Watch Over Me, and Isn’t It a Pity. 

I can’t imagine where Gershwin would have taken American music if his life wasn’t extinguished by a brain tumor at the age of 38.  But his output during his short life was remarkable, from Tin Pan Alley, Broadway to classical and operatic, to Hollywood.  He could write in all venues and he was a consummate pianist himself.  An excellent, succinct summary of his life and musical accomplishments can be found here.

George Gershwin once said that true music must repeat the thought and inspirations of the people and the time. My people are Americans and my time is today.  Indeed, he had that “certain feeling” as this piano roll recording of the master himself playing his song That Certain Feeling attests.

My audience at Brookdale was more than appreciative.  This is the longest of my prepared concerts, lasting a little more than an hour without a break, a medley of 24 songs, including some from Porgy and Bess, and concluding with the theme from Rhapsody in Blue.  The sheet music for all pieces is from The New York Times Gershwin Years in Song (published by Quadrangle Press which was then owned by the NYT). It was presented to me in my publishing days by one of our printers in 1973 and it is a prized possession as the songs include all the introduction sections which, in a George and Ira Gershwin song, can be as interesting as the song itself. I’m grateful to still be playing from this treasure some 42 years later -- and so the circle closes.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013


On several disparate topics, sort of a "catch up" posting.

First and foremost, the Boston bombings, deplorable, despicable, cowardly. The stark, almost naked vulnerability of the runners, makes it especially gruesome to me, and on Patriot's Day in Massachusetts, the symbolism of the act is unambiguous.  If it was carried out with assault weapons rather than the anonymity of trash can bombs, would it speed  national gun control legislation as Connecticut commendably passed?  I wonder, but violence in our great land is intolerable and must be dealt with through education and legislation and improved economic opportunity for all. 

Then, on a less important subject, but a continuing frustration, is the foolishness of the Florida Legislature which is actually considering massive increases for windstorm insurance coverage through its state supported "Citizens Insurance."  The unintended consequences of such an increase will destroy the nascent housing and construction recovery and, long term, turn coastline communities into ghost towns, the very communities that draw tourism, Florida's most important revenue source.  The "need" for such an increase is to buy even more reinsurance for a once in a hundred year storm but one has to wonder how much the insurance industry has cozied up to Florida legislators. 

As it is, there is a "cauldron of misconduct alleged at Citizens Property Insurance" but as a state designed and operated institution, it seems to be immune to corporate codes of ethics. The bottom line is the entire state is vulnerable to destructive weather, be it hurricanes, or tornadoes, and the state needs a plan other than a usurious tax on coastal citizens.  It could create its own reinsurance pool with a quarter of a percent sales tax increase (some of which would be paid by tourism), with, of course, still higher insurance rates for coastal homes, but not at levels that would destroy those communities.
Our friends Ray and Sue were briefly here, making a detour on their way back to Connecticut from the Abacos on their boat 'Last Dance.'  Always wonderful to see them and to learn more about their living full time on their boat as well as being part of a boating community in the Bahamas, the Royal Marsh Harbour Yacht Club -- scores of boaters doing the same thing during the winter (although most have homes to go back to in the summer). 

So Ray and Sue arrived here on Sunday and I followed them on "Spot Me" which broadcasts their position every twenty minutes or so superimposed on Google Maps.  A remarkable technology.  Here's their last leg of the trip from the Bahamas to here. 

I helped them untie their lines on our dock early this morning and they've begun their 1,200 mile trek "home" to Connecticut where we will join them on our boat later this summer.

Earlier this month, Ann took me to see my first opera since my college days, Richard Strauss' gruesome Salome, at the Kravis Theatre in West Palm Beach.  I went as much for the spectacle as I did to understand how Ann has "spent all that time" for the last decade with season's tickets.  She usually goes with her friend, Lois, and there they meet our friend Roy, who we also see at the Dramaworks functions, for a bite of lunch beforehand,.  Ann and I were photographed with characters from next year's program of operas.

I used to apologize for not liking Opera (Stephen Sondheim, however, gave me permission).  It was a epic spectacle to see Salome, the main part being sung superbly by Erika SunnegĂ„rdh and it was helpful to have the English translation in the subtitles overhead.  The music is almost oppressively beautiful, but, to me, the staging seems so wooden compared to, say, a Sondheim musical.  Perhaps it measures up to Sweeny Todd for the bloodiest musical stage production.

A notable article appeared in the April 7 New York Times by AndrĂ© Aciman, How Memoirists Mold the Truth.  It certainly hit home with me as most of what I write is indeed memoir and I know exactly what he means by the following:

Writing the past is never a neutral act.  Writing always asks the past to justify itself, to give its reasons...provided we can live with the reasons.  What we want is a narrative, not a log: a tale, not a trial. This is why most people write memoirs using the conventions not of history, but of fiction.  It's their revenge against facts that won't go away ...And maybe this is why we write.  We want a second chance, we want the other version of our life, the one that thrills us, the one that happened to the people we really are, not to those we just happened to be once.  There is a lot more to take away from this profound article, but it reminds me of the fine line I sometimes walk between fact and fiction trying on the one hand to be truthful, but sometimes circumventing facts, frequently to keep certain people anonymous, and perhaps to remember the past as I would have liked it to be (frequently being unable to distinguish it from the real past which, ironically, it really may be!). I must confess it's also a delicate balance between honesty and privacy.

But my writing has led me to places and people (although I do not have a comment section, an email address appears in my profile) and most recently I was contacted by someone I hired 44 years ago.  She had found me through my blog and wanted me to know that I served as an important mentor (unknowingly to me) to her early in her career.  Since then she has gone on to very significant accomplishments, in business, and, more importantly, in her empathic quest to make a difference in one of the great tragedies of the past decade in our economy: the high unemployment rate and its impact on individuals (statistics aside).  I might say more regarding our distant relationship over the a narrow alleyway of time, but that will have to wait. 

My blog will probably go quiet for a while as I am preparing a piano program and will be recording it at a studio, so lots of practice in the days ahead.  I'm calling it "Music Makes Us" after a quote from David Byrne's recently published How Music Works: "We don't make music; it makes us." How true. And we are sort of defined by the music we listen to. For myself, it is the Great American Songbook, music we sometimes refer to as "The Standards."  I'll have more to say about this, and the specific pieces, after I've taken this on, difficult for me, a mere amateur, but isn't that what an engaged life is all about, setting demanding goals and doing one's best to attain them?  I've used those piano skills to bring some joy to people in retirement homes and will continue to do so.  It's makes all that time and commitment that much more meaningful.  

Meanwhile, I leave with a photograph of our seasonally flowering pink Bougainvillea tree, highlighted by my lovely wife, Ann.